Thursday, September 24, 2009


To feel 'sorry' for killing someone seems a little trite. It feels improper to use a word that slips out in response to dropping a biscuit on a clean floor in the context of such an immense act as killing another human being.

I have two recurring nightmares, both of which become prominent around the anniversary of my crime. The first is a terror that my victim will appear out of the darkness, a spectral avenger, to kill me. The second is to be faced with my victim’s family.

What could I say? What possible part of my life, my body or my soul could I offer up in explanation? All murder is essentially irrational and while I could offer an explanation it would seem utterly drained of real meaning.

Each lifer carries their burden differently. Small minorities live in denial or slippery self-justification. The majority carry it as a secret stain on their soul; murder is a very private, as well as very public, tragedy. Some sink into self-loathing and kill themselves.

The burden develops over time. For me, as I grew into adulthood my appreciation of life increased and with it the enormity of what I had done. I have felt slightly apart from the community since that moment. Simon Weisenthal asserted that only the victim can forgive, and so murder is a crime that cannot be expunged. It is a debt that can never be repaid, a harm that can never be undone.

Time doesn't heal the wound, no more than it does for victims. But we both share the superficial healing, the patina of normality and daily life that slowly intrudes into the pain for longer and longer moments. But a slight pause in life can be sufficient to return the raw pain to the surface.

The past cannot be undone. That suffering cannot be erased and it would be futile to attempt it. What, then, is there that can be done? For me, I determined to 'fix' the psychological flaws that

led me to see killing as a solution to a fit of panic and fear. And it is no coincidence that my studies centre on conflict and attempting to reduce violence. All that remains possible is to try to live life in such a way as to leave this earth the better for your having existed.



  1. Powerful stuff Ben. You're preaching to the converted with me as I have been there got the T-shirt wripped it up.

    But, for those who do not know I hope it opens a few minds and hearts.

  2. Honesty may not be a good policy on this. The rightists may claim you are self-serving or self-obsessed. I think this is brutal in its honesty, no one else gives us this stuff. But I still fear you wont 'win'.

  3. A very moving article Ben, The worst crime we can commit is to take a life, and No amount of time you do in Prison for this crime as you say will bring this person back. You have to live with what you have done for the rest of your life , even when you are released from prison it will be with you always. A very hard cross to bear for you and the family of your victim.

  4. "Simon Weisenthal asserted that only the victim can forgive, and so murder is a crime that cannot be expunged. It is a debt that can never be repaid, a harm that can never be undone."

    Facinating and moving stuff.

    I'd be interested in your opinion of the view put forward by some that anyone, given the right circumstances, is capable of murder

  5. Thank you for your thoughtful comment on remorse. A difficult subject too.

    I was recently referred to this blog so am reading previous postings. For someone who is so thoughtful and open why have you not been released Ben? I realise that you write provocative articles which may upset a few within the system. As you were sentenced so young - I expect you were difficult in your early years? I also read on one of your postings about you being in "the block". I must assume this is some sort of confinement for violent prisoners. However, you are now mature (sadly developed through a prison sentence)and educated and although a challenge to some this surely would not preclude release? I hope I have not put pressure on you by asking such questions. I assume the authorities have told you why you have not been released?

    Delighted that you can still blog. I shall be reading your comment regularly........

  6. What Ben describes here is personal, there are many kinds of guilt and remorse. The most acceptable way to express remorse, as he suggests, is to right the wrong you did - impossible, of course, in a case of murder, with the result that feelings and memory become suppressed.

    I found counselling in prison by probation officers and psychiatrists was never free of accusation. I was an unknown being in whom there lurked something yet to be identified, something dangerous. The problem has remained with me since my release, together with a haunting sense of criminalisation which I feel is unnecessary and undeserved because I am an honest person.

    The best healing is probably to meet the victims family and friends and, over a period of time, to develop understanding of what happened by discovering our common humanity. A system in which the killer disappears behind bars satisfies only a wish for revenge from the victim's side. There is little healing or forgiving to be found.

  7. Thank you for this post, it was very enlightening.

    I sometimes wonder if part of the punishment for crimes like murder is actually a response to the denial we feel when forced to confront the discomforting fact that every single one of us has the capacity to commit violent and brutal acts given certain circumstances.

    You could have sat in your cell and felt sorry for your self, but the fact is you didn't. You used a terrible even to educate yourself so that others might not go down the same route.

    At my University there are often talks delivered by a former gang member to the younger students about making healthy choices so they don't end up in jail like he did. I don't know why you're not allowed to do that, given your particular circumstances.

    To me, it's not the wrong a person has done in their past that matters (unless of course they have a mental illness that means they are always likely to be a danger to other people) but who they are now, in this moment and how they chose to live their lives from that point forward.